Tourists, businesses cancel trips to S.Korea amid tension

High tensions on the Korean peninsula are unnerving foreign business travellers and tourists, with some cancelling trips to South Korea amid fears of war, officials said Monday.

Japan's Sony Corp. cancelled an executive trip set for early December, Honda banned business visits and a group of Polish buyers scrapped a visit to a business forum, said a spokesman for the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

The agency has set up a special international team to try to reassure foreign businesspeople following the North's deadly attack on a South Korean border island last week, which sparked worldwide alarm.

The Korea International Trade Association, which represents Korean firms doing business overseas, has also formed a team to handle fears.

"We've been getting a lot of calls asking about the status quo in Korea," said Park Chun-Il, general manager of the team.

"Most of them ask whether shipments will leave and arrive on time, but there has been nothing yet about cancelling contracts. Many calls are from Japanese buyers as they are very careful and interested in Korea's situation," said Park.

More and more potential tourists are checking with travel agencies about potential dangers.

"The calls asking whether Korea is safe to visit have doubled compared to regular days and the number of cancellations also increased after the incident," Lee Jin-Young, manager at HIS travel agency, told AFP.

"Some trips from Japan have been cancelled."

North Korea's bombardment, which killed two civilians and two marines on the island and destroyed homes, attracted worldwide condemnation. It was the first time civilian areas in the South had been shelled since the 1950-53 war.

Moody's Investors Service said it was assessing whether the North's latest attack "marks a fundamentally more reckless stance".

In a commentary, it said the broad investor reaction has been relatively mild so far.

But the agency said the bombardment was "troubling" since it closely followed the disclosure of the North's new uranium processing facility.

It also took place in the disputed border area, the location of the sinking of a South Korean ship in March, allegedly by a North Korean torpedo.

Moody's said it sees "a heightened degree of uncertainty from North Korea as it undergoes a dynastic transition in leadership" from Kim Jong-Il to his youngest son Jong-Un.

"The leadership appears to be seeking to demonstrate its military mettle and divert attention from its domestic economic distress."

 

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